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How Macron stands as France’s Presidential Electoral Furnace

PARIS – France faces an unusual presidential election in seven weeks, without a credible left-wing candidate, a voter so frustrated that abstentions can be high and a favorite The obvious likes haven’t even announced their candidacy yet.

That favorite is President Emmanuel Macron, 44, who has chosen to stay on top of the fight, delaying the decision to announce that he will run until a point closer to the March deadline, but another way to make The opponent must guess.

Comfortable with his lofty ideology of loyalty, Mr. Macron saw the far right and the far right tear each other to pieces. Immigration and security have largely pushed back on other topics, from climate change to the mounting debt France has amassed in its fight against the coronavirus crisis.

“Calling your child ‘Mohammed’ is a French colony,” says Eric Zemmouran election-supporting far-right who has channeled his popularity as a television pundit into a platform of anti-immigrant vitriol.

Only he, in his narrative, stands between French civilization and its conquest by Islam and the “awakening” of American political correctness. Like former President Donald J. Trump, with whom he spoke this week, Mr. Zemmour uses constant provocations to stay on top of the news.

However, Mr. Macron has a clear lead in the polls, giving him about 25% of the vote in the first round of elections on April 10. Mr. Zemmour and two other right-wing candidates are in the polls. about 12 to 18 percent. . Discrete left-wing parties are watching and now, for the first time, appear to be virtual spectators since the Fifth Republic in 1958.

France in general leans to the right; This time it was wobbly. Pascal Bruckner, an author and political philosopher, said: “The left has lost its populist classes, many of whom have turned to the right because it has no answers on immigration and Islam. teacher. “So it’s an unknowing chameleon, Macron, against right.”

Who has benefited from the perception that he has beaten the coronavirus pandemic and led the economy through its challenges, Mr. Macron is stronger today than it has been for some time. The economy grew 7% last quarter. Unemployment stands at 7.4%, low for France. The lifting of Covid-19 measures ahead of the election, including mask requirements in many public places, seems possible, a strongly symbolic move.

It is such a measure of how difficult it is to attack Mr. Macron that he seems at once to embody what is left of social democracy in France – once the preservation of a Socialist Party that is now in favour. pro-life – and policies adopted by the right, such as his hardline stance against what he calls “Islamic separatism”.

Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said: “He is very resilient. Mr. Macron’s predecessor as president, François Hollande, a Socialist who feels betrayed by the incumbent’s right turn, has said it less kindly in a recent book: “He jumped, like a frog on a water lily, from one belief to another.”

The two candidates leading in the first round overcame second place on April 24. The bottom line of the election thus turned into a fierce battle for second place against him. Macron.

Marine Le Pen, a longtime anti-immigration candidate, has become Zemmour’s fiercest critic, as defectors from her party swell. She said his supporters included “some Nazis” and accused him of seeking “death” for her National Rally party, formerly known as the National Front.

Mr Zemmour, whose extremist view is that Islam is “incompatible” with France, mocked her for trying to distinguish between Islamic extremism and the faith itself. He attacked her for not accepting the idea of ​​”great alternative— a racist conspiracy theory that claims white Christian communities are being intentionally displaced by non-white immigrants, leading to what Mr. creation” of societies.

The president will be confident of his chances against Ms Le Pen, whom he defeated easily in the second round in 2017, or Mr Zemmour, even amid the brilliant intellectualism of his descendants. a Jewish family of Algerian origin who overcame many taboos. that has discouraged conservative French voters from accepting the far right.

France is struggling, with many struggling to pay growing energy bills and tired of its two-year struggle against the pandemic, but a systemic choice, like vote for Mr. Trump in the United States or Britain’s choice. of Brexit, will be a surprise.

Paulette Brémond, a retiree who voted for Mr Macron in 2017, said she was hesitating between the president and Mr. Zemmour. “The immigration question is serious,” she said. “I am waiting to see what Mr Macron has to say about it. He probably won’t get as far as Mr. Zemmour, but if he sounds effective, I’ll probably vote for him again.”

Until Mr Macron announced his candidacy, she added, “the campaign looked like it hadn’t begun” – a common sentiment in a country where political jostling can now resemble boxing. .

That is absolutely not a concern for the president, who has identified himself as someone with an obligation to focus on high-level state issues. These include his prominent diplomatic role in trying to avert a war in Ukraine through his relationship with Russian President V.Putin, and concluding, with allies, the campaign against France’s troubled terror in Mali.

If Mali were a glaring defeat, though a defeat unlikely to sway many voters, the Ukraine crisis, as long as it doesn’t lead to war, has allowing Mr. Macron to look like the de facto leader of Europe on a mission of constructive engagement with Russia. Mr. Zemmour and Ms. Le Pen, between whom they represent about 30% of the vote, make no secret of their admiration for Mr. Putin.

A member of Mr Macron’s hypothetical re-election team, who insists on anonymity in line with government practice, said the possibility of a landing against the centre-right Republican candidate, Valérie Pécresse , more worrisome than facing Mrs. Le Pen or Mr. Zemmour in round two.

Graduating from the same elite school as Mr Macron, a capable two-term president of France’s most populous region and an instinctive centrist, Ms Pécresse is likely to appeal within two to centre-left and left-wing voters who see Mr Macron as a traitor.

But a disastrous performance in her first major campaign speech in Paris this month appears to have cost Ms. Pécresse, if perhaps irrevocably, her chances. A poll this week gave her 12% of the vote, down from 19% in December.

Ms Pécresse has been so driven by the prevailing winds in France, the European country believed to be hardest hit by Islamic terrorism in the past seven years, that she chose to refer to the “substitute”. great” in his campaign speech.

“Stop the witch trials!” She said in a television interview on Thursday, in the face of outcry over her use of a term once restricted to the far right. “I will not resign before the Macron-Zemmour showdown,” because “in the end, voting for Le Pen or Zemmour is voting for Macron.”

There are two President Macrons. The first sought to recreate the model of state-centered France through labyrinthine changes to the labor code that made hiring and firing easier; suppress taxes on large properties; and other measures to attract foreign investment and free up the economy.

Then came the uprising, in the form of the Yellow Vest movement against growing inequality, and the global financiers – Mr. Macron was once – were seen as blind to social difficulties. widespread association.

That soon subsided, instead of the coronavirus hitting, turning the president overnight into a “spend whatever is necessary” apostle of state intervention from a market reformer. free school.

“We have nationalized wages,” Macron announced in 2020, without blinking.

The cost of all of that will come one day, and it will be hard. But now the “concurrent” president, as Mr Macron has become known for his habit of constantly changing positions, seems to be basking in the aura of a tamed pandemic.

“He got lucky,” said a member of his advocacy team. “Covid saved him from more unpopular reforms.”

Anything is still possible – a European war, a new variant of the virus, another major terrorist attack, a sudden new wave of social unrest – but for now, the game Mr. Macron’s distant melee seems to be working.

“There was no disaster, I don’t understand how Mr. Macon didn’t get re-elected,” Mr. Bruckner said. Then again, the real campaign will only begin when the last incumbent falls into the chaotic arena.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/18/world/europe/france-election-macron-zemmour-le-pen.html How Macron stands as France’s Presidential Electoral Furnace

Fry Electronics Team

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